If you were ever curious about who the highest paid model in the world is, it would be Brazilian model, Gisele Bundchen. That’s right, this model is worth top dollar, but she got there with hard work and passion for modeling. In the past year, Gisele has earned over 42 million dollars.
Bündchen is a sixth-generation German Brazilian, born in Três de Maio, Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, to Vânia Nonnenmacher, a bank clerk pensioner, and Valdir Bündchen, a university teacher and writer, who are both of German descent. Bündchen was born and raised in Horizontina, a southern region in Brazil where there is a large population of German ancestry. She grew up with her five sisters—Raquel, Graziela, Gabriela, Rafaela, and her fraternal twin Patrícia, her junior by five minutes. She speaks Portuguese as her native language, in addition to Spanish, English and Italian. She studied German in school. Fun Fact: Bündchen pioneered the “horse walk”, a stomping movement created when a model picks her knees up high and kicks her feet out in front. Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell have stated that Bündchen is the only true remaining supermodel.
Bündchen was spotted by a modeling agent at a fast-food restaurant. After some initial resistance, the teenage beauty decided to try modeling. She started out working in Brazil, and debuted on the catwalk at New York City’s fashion week in 1996. The following year, she moved to New York City. Bündchen caught one of her first big breaks around this time, when designer Alexander McQueen chose her for his runway show.
By the late 1990s, Bündchen had become an in-demand model, gracing the covers of Vogue and other fashion magazines around the world. She worked for such leading designers as Dolce & Gabbana. Bündchen made headlines in 2000, when she landed an impressive $25 million contract with Victoria’s Secret, the popular lingerie company. That same year, Bündchen was named “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by Rolling Stone magazine.
By 2004, Bündchen had become the highest-paid model in the world, according to Forbes magazine. She made an attempt at a film career around this time, appearing in the comedy flop Taxi with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. Two years later, Bündchen fared better with a small role in the fashion dramedy The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
Bündchen decided to end her relationship with Victoria’s Secret in 2007, but she continued to be a sought-after model. In fact, she once again topped the Forbes list, beating out such other established models as Heidi Klum.
Bündchen has sometimes found herself in the midst of controversy, as she did in 2011 for a series of TV spots that ran in Brazil. Bündchen strutted her stuff in these lingerie ads, which encouraged women to use their sex appeal to get out of several difficult situations. A government department dedicated to women’s issues called for the ads to be pulled, saying “the campaign promotes the misguided stereotype of a woman as a sexual object,” according to Marie Claire magazine.
Since 2004, she has been the highest-paid model in the world, and is the sixteenth richest woman in the entertainment industry (as of 2007). In 2012 she placed first on the Forbes top-earning models list. From 2000 to 2005, Bündchen was in a relationship with American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She married New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2009. As of 2014, she is listed as the 89th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In 2012, Bündchen again made waves by appearing nude in Vogue Paris magazine, showing the world that she was still one of the sexiest models working today.